Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bites on the launch of Godrej Natures Basket Delhi...

One of the best things about being a consultant is that I often get to be a part of the most important part of any business, new ventures. Last week I had a call from Nature's basket, asking me to fly down to Delhi and help with showcasing them for their launch. I accepted with reservations. Leaving my kids to go anywhere is always a struggle. Besides, time was short and I had to showcase upwards of 5000 products in one day? And that too, to some of the most discerning palates in Delhi!
Some thinking later I homed in on a series of little Amuse bouche offerings. Amuse Bouche are a favourite concept of mine since they allow for a wide variety of small offerings. And since they are a sort of prelude to a meal or little surprises served to set the tone of the meal to come, a trend associated with gourmet chefs and restaurants they would be glamorous enough to suit such an important occasion for Nature's Basket. I would not showcase too many products but I would show off the best that NB had to offer.

The Sparkling storefront the day of the launch party!

But that was only the beginning, now came the task of infusing a world of flavours into 10 small bites. Over the next day or so, I made lists, tried and retried recipes, went back to the drawing board multiple times when I found out ingredients I planned were not at the Delhi store. I picked crockery for serving, and changed all the recipes around again to suit my finds, then I found absolutely FABULOUS containers to sample my Amuse Bouche in thanks to my friend Pooja of Le15 bakery and changed everything all over again! But things were progressing well and I was feeling more upbeat.

And then in the middle of all this, my darling older brother, who has always been a smiling benovelent source of happiness and guidance in my life, took terribly shockingly ill.I was tempted to pull out but it was too late and unfair to let NB down. Dramatic as it sounds, I resolved to give it my best, because if anyone would be proud of me, it would be him. (It would mean travelling to another city bur at least I would be doing something more than just waiting!) And somewhere in me I thought that perhaps, just perhaps, if I worked hard enough on this, perhaps God would send a few brownie points his way to aid all the prayers and medical care.

Me with Bikramjit Ray, the man behind Secret Kitchen on CNN IBN, meeting him was oneo the highlights of the trip!

As good as my intentions were, it was a mammoth task to actually apply my mind to the undertaking and by Monday the day I was to fly I was wired with a lack of sleep and on tenterhooks! Of course it is Murphy's law that best laid plans are meant to go wrong and I arrived to chaos. Nothing was ready and we had to have a table full of deliciousness ready by the next morning for a series of media interactions! We prepped late into the night and I headed home for a few hours of elusive sleep with my hand on my phone.

Luckily the deadline for laying out the food was pushed back a little the next day. I got to work with my fabulous team of NB's Food Specialists and began readying the platters. We had meat, antipasti and Cheese platters to set out in addition to all the Amuse Bouche. I had to make a few last minute changes when my miniature Korean Bimbimbap bowls and Milli Fiuili of French style Ratatuoile did not work out but in the end things worked out and our final menu was laid well in time and was a breeze for my team to repeat the next day for the Launch Party.

The fabulous men I am honoured to work with at NB, although one of them was playing truant! Eh Manish??

In the end everything was received very well. Delhi’s finest turned up in their dozens, I hung about on the fringes being shy by nature and not feeling like partying anyway, but indulged in a couple of glasses of wine and revelled in the reactions to the Amuse Bouche. But being part of something new, working with a team towards a common goal is very rejuvenating. I returned home to Mumbai exhausted with feet that are still aching from running up and down all through in heels (thanks to the vanity of us women) and I feel drained from a lack of sleep and too much thinking but a HUGE smile of welcome from my daughter was good medicine and those brownie points seem to have come my brothers way because the doctors report that there is a minor but positive response in his treatment.

The Amuse Bouche I created.

Amuse bouche are single bite sized appetisers, combining unusual flavours beautifully presentation, Akin to food art on one's plate... so I had chosen very carefully. I chose to keep combinations simple, I will share the recipes in subsequent posts but here is the thought process behind my selections. With a little inspiration from Russian cuisine I piped swirls of Smoked Salmon onto Rye multigrain crackers and sprinkled over a few bits of garlicky chives.

Finding the most fabulous Kaffir Lime leaves in the fresh produce section and loath to mess with their shiny gloriousness I scored them with a peeling knife and served them under hot Salt and Pepper prawns in Chinese soup spoons so the savoury prawns absorbed the aromas from the leaves.

I repeated an old winner of a recipe in my Asian Zesty Glass Noodle Salad but I spiked them with fresh Thai birds eye chilles and put spoonfuls in bowls made of thin slices of Tangerines topped with a little orange braised tofu and a sliver of Thai chilli.

Again the Miniature Vietnamese rice paper rolls were a repeat of an old favourite but they looked adorable lined up on the lovely long rectangular platters with a little bowl of thai sweet chilli sauce at the end - very Zen I thought.

Considering that we had flown the first of the Seasons Alphonso Mangoes into Delhi especially for the occasion I had to showcase them so I seared the surfaces of a few mango cheeks and cut them into cubes, layering them with cubes of honey baked ham from the meats section and drizzling a little chilli oil over the whole still warm ensemble at the end.

I also found out that it was Navratri the day I landed, which meant a lot of people would be vegetarian so I also did a batch of mango topped with ricotta and flaked salted almonds.

Strawberry and Green peppercorn cups, showcased the absolutely AWESOME red tasty sweet ORGANIC strawberries we had also flown down for the occasion (Delhi has a lot of foodie things going for it but I am sorry to say the quality of their strawberries is totally dismal!). I tossed the strawberries with a pinch of sea salt, organic honey and green peppercorns from Keya. I topped this with a dollop of Mascarpone and mint crushed with more green peppercorns.

And lastly came my most elaborate dish Peanut Butter and Cranberry Cups inspired by the PB&J in which I layered salty Peanut butter, sour cranberries, dense chocolate sauce, and topped it all with a bit of Mascarpone and granola. They were so sophisticated to look at and yet simple enough for a child to make!

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Kim said...

Glad to know that your brother is showing improvement. He is still in our prayers.

The containers WERE fabulous! and the food was awesome.

The best part of the evening though, was getting to meet you again after so many years :)

Shirley said...

Wow, really amazing blog. i like this post . thanks!!!!

Gourmet Free